Spring Cleaning Week: the importance of organizing your way

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About Mandi

Mandi Ehman is an entrepreneur, online publisher and author who is passionate about encouraging other women to live intentionally. She's the blogger behind Life Your Way, the author of Easy Homemade and the founder of BundleoftheWeek.com. Mandi and her husband have four spunky little girls plus one baby boy on the way, and together they live, work and homeschool on a little slice of heaven in wild, wonderful West Virginia.

This week, Tsh has been focusing on her three-step plan for spring cleaning: decluttering, cleaning, and organizing.

As you go through the process that she outlines in her ebook, Spring Cleaning for Normal People, you should be emptying each shelf, cabinet or closet, decluttering its contents, cleaning all the nooks and crannies and then organizing the items as you put them back.

For some people, decluttering is the part of the process that stops them in their tracks. Because of their emotional attachment to the stuff they’re holding onto, they’re unable to make tough decisions about letting go of those things.

For others, decluttering and organizing are the fun parts of the process, but cleaning is the one that drags them down. They want their homes to be neat and organized, but scrubbing the baseboards just doesn’t excite them.

And still others find that decluttering is easy and cleaning is no big deal, but when it’s time to organize, they’re just not sure where to start. They aren’t sure which way is the right way to organize their kitchen drawers or how Martha Stewart would say to organize their linen closet or how the toys should be organized.

Today, I want to tell you a little secret…

There is no right way to organize.

Sure, there are overarching principles that help create good organizational systems:

  • Create zones for items that are used together.
  • Use containers to control clutter.
  • Less is more.
  • Be willing to reevaluate your systems as you go.

But the right system for your home is the one that is tailored to fit your needs, lifestyle and preferences. By creating your own system, you are much more likely to be able to maintain it over time, and that is the hallmark of good organizing!

Let’s take a look at some different methods for organizing common hot spots in our homes to give you an idea of what I mean:

Closets & Wardrobes

Clothes on Hangers
Photo by dansays

How do you organize the clothes in your closets?

  • I personally separate my short- and long-sleeved shirts and then hang them by color.
  • If you work outside of the home or attend a more formal church, you may want to separate your casual and dressy clothes.
  • If you hang all of your pants and skirts along with your shirts, it might make sense for you to separate them by garment.

How do you decide what to keep and what to give away?

  • A popular system for decluttering your closet involves hanging all of your hangers backward at the start of the season. Each time you wear a item, you put the hanger away and then rehang it on a hanger facing the right direction after you wash it. At the end of the season, it’s easy to quickly see which clothes you wear so that you can pass the rest on.
  • Meredith from Penelope Loves Lists has a different take on this system, though. She recommends that you stop doing your laundry (not including the basic unmentionables, of course) and wear a new thing every day. You’ll eventually hit a point where the things left in your closet just don’t appeal to you, and passing them on will be an easy decision.

Kitchen

What zones do you have in your kitchen?

Organizing by zone is most important in the kitchen, where organizing your tools and ingredients has a big impact on your daily meal preparations and clean up.

However, the zones in your kitchen will not be the same as mine, and they shouldn’t be. Instead, your zones should reflect the meals you prepare and the way you use your kitchen.

  • That may mean setting up a coffee zone or having a zone for entertaining pieces.
  • If you have little ones, it may mean having a “this cabinet is for play” zone that keeps them busy while you cook.
  • Or if you have a tiny kitchen, it may mean following the lead of Shaina from Food for My Family and creating a small appliance zone in your garage.

Books

Colorful Bookshelf
Photo by Chotda

How do you organize your bookshelves?

During last year’s Spring Cleaning Party, Tsh and I both shared our systems for organizing books. I noted that our systems and philosophies are very different in this area, but that doesn’t make either one of us right or wrong.

  • While Tsh keeps all of her family’s book in a reading nook in their home, where they’re organized alphabetically, we have books spread throughout our home, organized by subject or grouped by series.
  • You might prefer to set up separate areas for adult and children’s books.
  • Or if you’re a homeschooler, you might keep recreational reading separate from those books you use for school.
  • And for those of you who are very visual, grouping the books by color might be the most appealing option for you.

Paperwork

How do you deal with the paper?

What about all of the paperwork we deal with on a daily basis – incoming mail, bills to be paid, school records and notices, business documents and more?

As with the other areas of our homes, there is no right or wrong system to deal with paperwork. The important part is that you have a system in place so that you can stay on top of the piles of paper rather than letting them build up.

  • Tanna from Complete Organizing Solutions keeps her family organized with a command central, where she keeps track of any papers that need action and writes notes and reminders for herself.
  • Other families may choose to create a home management notebook to serve as their second brain for contact lists, calendars, medical information and more.
  • You may choose to stick with a traditional file system or scan your documents onto the computer rather than keeping physical files.

Get Creative

Do-It-Yourself Drawer Organizers
Photo by Complete Organizing Solutions

No matter what area of your home you’re organizing – your media library, toy room, school room, garage or outside, for example — take some time to really think through your family’s needs and come up with a system that works best for you. Think about your schedule, personalities, what’s worked in the past and what obstacles have prevented you from getting organized. Then brainstorm creative solutions to overcome them.

  • For example, Marci from Overcoming Busy made adorable cereal box organizers to hold her kids’ crafts and artwork, which we all know can take on a life of their own if they’re not contained.
  • And Tanna from Complete Organizing Solutions and her husband built custom drawer organizers to help corral all the little stuff that often gets mixed up in the open space of a drawer.

While it’s great to read organizing blogs and magazines and learn from others who are more organized than you, don’t limit yourself to the systems that other people use. Try different things until you find a system that works for you.

What unconventional organizing systems do you have in your home?

Join the Conversation

Comments

  1. Because our family normally likes to come in and settle in on the first floor (before going upstairs to their rooms), I came up with the idea of having tall cubbies (narrow tall closets) for each member of the house — right on the first floor, by the entrance. This allows them to throw in there whatever comes with them, until they are ready to head back upstairs with their shoes, books, toys, etc. It works best for me, since I’m the one that greatly dislikes seeing bookbags, shoes and sports items all over the place on the first floor. Yes, it would make more sense for them just to keep going upstairs and put everything away, but I’ve fought that battle already. That’s just not my family’s style — so you have to come up with organizing ideas that fit how your family natually moves around.

  2. Following something I saw once on your blog, Mandi, we have been using a Kids Closet (our version of the “family closet” – Chris and I still share the one in our Master Bedroom). It had made mornings SO much easier!

    Instead of going from room to room, the kids gather in front of their closet and I give them their clothes or dress the little ones. We took over the linen closet in between our laundry room and the kids bathroom for this – it couldn’t be a more perfect location! It is super easy to put things away as it is steps from the laundry room (no more trudging a basket all over the house) and my oldest can take her clothes from the closet and go right into the bathroom to get dressed.

    Now their bedroom closets can be used for toys and storing heirlooms (think “hope chest” but with a door LOL) and I’m SO enjoying all the extra steps (literally!) this took out of my laundry routine and our morning routine :-)

    Terrific post! I’m looking forward to reading what others do that is unconventional.
    .-= Kara´s last blog ..It’s An Eco Date! Earth Friendly Days to Mark on Your Calendar =-.

  3. Thanks! this really helps me to think just about my own home. My husband and i have very different ways of organizing. He is naturally mentally organized but a bit of a pack rat. It works for him because he is good at details so he knows where everything is (within reason) and can find things he can’t easily see. I on the other hand am very random. I like less stuff, because I want to be able to see it easily or I won’t be able to find it later. Meshing our sysytems has been tricky. And it helps to be reminded that neither of us is wrong, just different. I have started to “give” my husband his own areas.
    I love the variety of organizing blogs. It has really helped me to develop my own style and understand my husbands. Thanks.
    .-= Debbie´s last blog ..Now its a room you can view! =-.

  4. We moved into our house just after our first child was born and decided to use the laundry room for his diaper changing area. We installed a countertop with cabinets underneath and a changing pad on top. Since we use cloth diapers, the diapers never leave the laundry area — unless they’re on my son. This cuts down on the stuff in his room and on the smell in the rest of the house. And it makes washing the diapers so easy!

  5. I consider myself to be a pretty organized person, but I don’t like to spend lots of time on complex organizing solutions. For me, the more complex/cumbersome an organizing solution is, the less likely I am to use it. I keep a big stack of empty files so that I can start new folders for my paperwork as new ‘topics’ pop up. I don’t try to alphabetize the folder though–just keep them in the same wicker basket.

    And another thing: did you ever realize that it’s much easier to organize when you have fewer items and plenty of space to put them away? Keep the amount of stuff you have in line relative to the time you have to organize it and the space you have to put it away. It’s a lifesaver.
    .-= Simple in France´s last blog ..How do you chose a ‘new’ car? =-.

  6. Great info! Thank you!

    So glad you emphasized organizing in a way that works for each individual. My mom recently decided to “organize” my pantry– it went from being perfectly organized to ???? chaos! As soon as she left, I reorganized it!

    Thanks for the tip about the cereal box art holders, too! Such a good idea!

  7. Great Blog! Just found it. I’m looking forward to reading more and getting simple. With a toddler in toe I have come to realize that I must be much more organized, much simpler if I am going to be happier and less/not stressed.

  8. I love what you say here, it IS so important for every person to find her own rhythm and flow to organizing her space. I know that my systems might not work for everyone, but they work for me. And it took time for me to come up with them.

    It’s a process, but worth it.

    Great column, Mandi. I’ve loved this whole week on Simple Mom. Thanks!

  9. I love to be organized and I love reading about great new ideas. Thanks! So MANY great links in this post. That just shows that it pays to be organized– haha. :)

  10. I loved your line “There is no right way to organize”. That really hits the nail on the head. The point is to do what is right for you. Sure get helpful suggestions and the examples you gave is great advice. Just getting committed to starting the process is a first step. I know one thing that works for me is to take on area at a time so that I don’t get overwhelmed and become frozen. I am grateful for having found this post and this site. I can’t wait to discover other helpful and most useful tips.
    Blessings,
    Christine

  11. One thing I struggle with when it comes to organizing is perfectionism. I end up not wanting to tackle the project until I know I have time to do it *perfectly* the way I want it done, which of course never happens! Letting go of this mentality has helped me get more organized. If a project is big, I’ll break it down into manageable pieces. For example, if the laundry is out of control, I’ll focus on rounding all of it up in one place and just starting one load rather than feeling like I must tackle the mountain of it in one day.

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